The East of England’s rural Champions of 2011 have been revealed in the Countryside Alliance Awards. The strong line up of local businesses will now head to the House of Lords in March to hear if they have scooped a UK & Ireland title. Eastern Regional Director William Burton introduces his winners:
Local Food category Champions
Suffolk Food Hall, Wherstead, Ipswich, Suffolk 01473 786610 www.suffolkfoodhall.co.uk/. William says: “This ticks all the boxes in some style. All the produce is sourced from as near to the enterprise as possible. The beef on the meat counter even had a ticket attached so that each item could be traced to an individual animal. The enterprise was very impressive, especially as it has only been in existence for four years, and the list of awards that they have already received tells the story. Two cousins farm the land around the Food Hall, which is a converted cattle shed, and have developed a business hub to bring together local food producers as well as their own produce. This hub means that it can offer a much wider range of local produce and you are served by people who know what they are talking about because they have made it! There is a coffee shop and cafe and entertainment for the children. I feel that winning this would really help put good food produced in the East of England on the map and show that the area is not just a big prairie producing thousands of tonnes of cereals and that there are some very talented food producers in the area. This winner is a great advert for the East!
Village Shop category Champions
Kings Walden Post Office and Stores, Hitchin, Hertfordshire, 01462 768511. William says:“Set in the heart of this small rural village, Kings Walden Village shop and Post Office is at the centre of the community. It is a thriving local business run by the entrepreneurial Amanda Thompson who has made the needs of local people the aim of her business. Since arriving only eighteen months ago, Amanda has turned this shop around providing locals with a functional village store and post office and a warm, friendly coffee shop . Even when I visited on a quiet weekday afternoon the coffee shop was buzzing with people popping in for takeaway coffees and catching up with friends. The shop is full of essential items and lots of local produce including homemade cakes, local pies and meat. On the post office side, as well as the branch at the shop Amanda also operates a mobile post office service and once a week travels to some of the outlying villages, really benefiting those further away from a post office or who may have lost their village one. Kings Walden Village Shop and Post Office goes out of its way to serve the local population and has kept services alive to those in this rural community.”
The Cholmeley Arms, Burton-le-Coggles, Grantham, Lincolnshire, 01476 550 225 www.thecholmeleyarms.co.uk. William says:“The Cholmeley Arms in the small village of Burton le Coggles in Lincolnshire has really benefited the local population. Despite opening only in 2009, this local pub and farm shop has built up a staunch following and so popular is the food here that reservations for a weekend meal often need to be booked two weeks in advance. Having a farm shop and pub on one site is ingenious and it has become central to the local community as there is not another village shop around. It sells all essentials as well as a fantastic display of local meat, homemade cakes, local fruit and veg as well as many other local specialities. The cows and pigs can be seen at the farm as well. Both the farm shop and pub are run by husband and wife team John and Lesley Berry with a number of local people employed throughout. The passion displayed by the couple is infectious and rubs off on customers as well as members of staff. I was most impressed by the opening hours here - the farm shop stays open for the same amount of hours as the pub, so if someone pops in for a drink at 9pm they can also pop to the farm shop at the same time. Overall, The Cholmeley Arms is a wonderful example of successful rural enterprise showing how local enterprise can really benefit the community.
Highly Commended: Marybelle Dairy, Walpole, Halesworth, Suffolk, 01986-784-658 www.marybelle.co.uk
Woburn Country Foods, Haynes West End, Bedfordshire 01234 740300 www.woburncountryfoods.com/. William says: “Woburn Country Foods is a family run enterprise that keeps good quality local meat at the heart of its ethos. The butchers itself is very impressive, celebrating local produce with a large display of meat, all of which is locally sourced. Venison is from the Woburn estate and proves extremely popular with customers. There are traditional cuts alongside more modern offerings. However, what I found most impressive what the passion for local meat that has led Woburn Country Foods to operate a local farming partnership to ensure that all meat sold is sourced from Bedfordshire. Woburn Country Foods is, in turn, passing this enthusiasm on the younger generation by taking on and training at least one apprentice every year. This is a very worthy winner, determined to ensure that future generations will enjoy good quality local meat.
Highly Commended: M & M Rutland Butchers, Melton Constable, Norfolk 01263 860 562 http://rutland-butchers.co.uk/